Setting goals is key to achieving your dreams.
But how do you set goals that are achievable, realistic and clear?
There are certain things you have to avoid if you want your goals to come true.
Here are the most important things successful people never do when setting goals.
We all hope for the best.
But the best doesn’t always happen, and even when it does it’s often not in the way we might have imagined.
That’s why daydreaming is one of the crucial things successful people never do when setting goals.
Daydreaming may help for picturing what you love to do or who you want to be in a very general sense.
But when it comes to actually setting your achievable, down-to-earth goals, the daydreaming needs to be set aside.
Keep your daydreams for the pre-goal phase.
When actually setting goals, daydreams will only mislead you.
2. Wing it
If you want to set achievable goals, you can’t just wing it.
To be sure, there are times when you might take a big risk or go for a goal that everyone else thinks is impossible.
But to act spontaneously without any planning is not a realistic way to set your goals.
If you hope to purchase a house and have a goal for earning a certain amount of money per month, you need to break this up into actionable steps.
You will decide on what house is within your range and then work to hit that target.
You will have a minimum salary you can accept to hit your goal financially. This minimum will also take into account your costs that will cut away from what you can save.
By contrast, somebody who wants a nice place to live but wings it is far different.
They may end up taking the lowest-paid job that’s offered to them because it’s all they can find within a few weeks.
They then end up deciding they want to buy a house as well, but don’t have enough money saved.
They thus end up in a shared condo with a heavy smoker who has disturbingly loud sex sessions several times per week with strangers and wakes them up in the morning playing loud music by Pitbull.
This is what happens when you set goals as you go, rather than ahead of time.
On a related note, another thing that people never do when making goals is:
3. Ignore money
No matter how clear they are on what they want, a successful person never erases money from the equation.
Of course we’ve all heard the question: “what would you do if you had all the money in the world” or “if you didn’t have to worry about money?”
And that is an interesting and worthwhile question to help uncover what you really love and want!
But this question belongs back in the daydream phase which, as I mentioned, comes before you get around to actually setting goals.
When setting goals you need to bring it down to earth and crystallize your dreams into real, actionable steps and benchmarks.
This is invariably going to involve dollars and cents (or reals and centavos) or whatever your local currency is.
Even if you know you can borrow money or have plenty of it, your goals need to be realistic within the money you have available or will have in the near future.
Setting goals without taking into consideration costs, hidden costs and emergency extra costs that could occur is a recipe for complete disaster and disappointment.
Imagine finding you’re halfway to achieving your dream of becoming a tour boat operator only to realize you don’t have nearly enough money to finish the certification training.
4. Make vague goals
When setting goals, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want.
Imagine you are setting a goal regarding your future career.
You’ve worked in all sorts of jobs including as an Uber driver, mall security guard, loss prevention officer in a store and customer service agent in a call center.
You aren’t sure what career you want and are currently doing part time Uber and a new job in a lingerie store.
You only know that you are sociable and thus decide that you will save up money to go back to school for “something with people.”
This is very vague.
Many jobs involve people, working with people, working for people, talking to people and otherwise interacting with people.
Would you like to work in a blue collar or white collar job? Would you like to have your job be more in the field or more office-based?
When setting goals in your career or your personal life it’s important to not be overly vague.
5. Overthink goals
On the flipside, the next of the things successful people never do when setting goals is overthink their goal.
You want to set goals that are realistic and not too vague.
But you also don’t want to overanalyze them to death.
The future is not within our control, only the present is.
For that reason, goals must always take into account the unpredictable nature of life itself.
We may have the ideal goal and be certain of it only to have a family member get sick and cause us to move back to somewhere we never planned…
We may have a future planned with somebody we love only for them to break up with us…
Anything can happen! That’s why setting goals should be clear and realistic, but never over-analytical or reaching the level of obsessive over-analysis.
It’s also key to not:
6. Rely on factors outside one’s control
It’s very tempting when setting goals to base them on what we hope will happen rather than something we know will happen.
“I’ll move to Florida and then I’ll probably meet a really great girl to marry within a few months.”
“I’ll take this dental hygienist training course and have a great job right after I graduate.”
These are both entirely possible.
Somebody could move to Florida and meet the love of their life on the airplane ride there. Or they could move to Florida and be miserable and lonely for ten years.
Somebody could take the dental training course and get hired at the best dental clinic in the city and have a salary even they couldn’t have dreamed of. Or they could take the course only for the state government to change regulations and make their training all but irrelevant.
There are many things we can’t control.
It’s good to have specific goals that we want badly, but they should never be hinged completely on an expectation attached to them.
This ties into the next point:
7. Depend on others
Many of the goals we set may involve other people.
They may even be goals we make in collaboration with others.
But a goal should never be set as completely dependent on somebody else.
This takes away all your power and makes you subject to any change of heart that the other people involved have.
“My goal is to move to Germany with my best friend.”
OK, that sounds good as a starting point.
But if that becomes “I no longer have the goal of moving to Germany with my best friend because he’s broke and doesn’t want to go,” then you just subordinated your goals to somebody else by depending on them to make the goal come true.
Next up in things successful people never do when setting goals is catastrophize.
Many things can go wrong.
I could wake up and find I have a life-threatening illness in a month.
I could find out my dog has cancer tomorrow.
I could wake up in two months to find out that the USD dollar has collapsed and my bank account is now 0.
But I could also wake up and find that none of those things have happened.
That’s why when setting goals it’s really important not to catastrophize.
You want to have the worst-case and best-case scenario in mind in order to make fallback plans, but never consider these as your primary options.
They are outliers at best. The true occurrences in life usually fall somewhere in the middle.
This leads to the final point I want to make here. When setting goals, successful people do not:
Lastly in terms of things successful people never do when setting goals is idealize.
Your goals should be important to you, and it’s good to be pumped about them.
But don’t put your goals on a pedestal.
What you have is this present moment, this body, this mind and this heart.
There are celebrities who outwardly seem to have it all and die in depression, and there are struggling dirt poor farmers who sleep at night with their wife and a contented smile on their face.
Never idealize any outer goal as the completion or perfection of your life.
True progress and pinnacles of power will always come inside.
He shoots, he scores
Setting realistic goals is all about facing reality as it is instead of as you want it to be.
No goal is guaranteed, and even once you achieve one goal you’ll likely soon have more.
You may get the job of your dreams and absolutely love it, but one day your goal will be to retire and maybe to decide on the best place to retire to.
Success at goal setting is all about a balance between your hopes and reality.
It requires self-awareness and knowing what you and others in your life truly value and what will be most likely to yield a fulfilling outcome.
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